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Pitching the right tone in your CV: get the balance right

'It's not what you say, it's how you say it'. This old adage is as true for CV writing as it is for any other form of communication. We are programmed to respond to emotions and of course in a CV we are trying to elicit a positive emotional response from the reader: to pick up the phone and call you to interview. So you want your CV to be the equivalent of your smartest outfit and shoes. But just what does this outfit look like?

Pitching the right tone in your CV: get the balance right

When applying for jobs you are essentially providing your CV as a brief picture of your own personal brand. This comprises all the facets that make you great at what you do. Not just your technical skills but all those other ‘soft’ skills that have driven your success. You want all of your skills, qualities and achievements to be encapsulated in a two-page document. Sounds easy?

It certainly pays to plan and approach your CV with thought. Research what employers are looking for in your field. Read job descriptions and person specifications and align your expertise to your ideal next role. Provide evidence of concrete achievements. Use impact and active words like ‘driven’, ‘led’ and ‘transformed’. This gives your CV a sense of momentum and energy. Vary the length of sentences. Like a news presenter varying their voice intonation, this creates engagement and keeps the reader interested.

The four Ps for writing a compelling CV: positivity, professionalism, personality and pace


Your CV must contain no shades of grey. It should be 100% positive and not raise any unnecessary question marks. Remember, you only have one opportunity with your application. There is no room to start explaining anomalies or defending decisions. Make sure you get the interview first. You’ll be surprised at how perceived worries can simply melt away once you get to interview and the interviewer decides they like you.


How your CV looks is vital. Of course there should be no typos or errors. The formatting should be consistent and the layout professional. You certainly don’t want to give the impression that the CV has been hurried in any way. It should also be tailored for every job you apply for and clearly laid out for easy navigation.


Your CV needs to reflect your personality. Your individual personal qualities are just as important as your technical skills. So you need to balance the two. Too professional and you may come across as cold. Too personal and your CV may not be treated seriously. Remember employers are looking for the right cultural fit so present yourself true to the values and qualities you hold dear.


Nothing is going to turn an employer off more than a turgid CV that is laboured or too detailed. Your CV needs to generate its own energy and excitement and carry that through from start to finish. You only have a limited window of opportunity so only include information that is going to help the reader say ‘yes’.

Take heed of the four Ps in CV writing and you should be well on the way to creating the right impression with a CV that demands attention from the reader.

If you would like help with your CV, cover letter or LinkedIn profile, CV Writers can help through a variety of CV services.